Why Can’t Baseball Be More Like the Book Business?

Except that the book business is bracing for its worst holiday season ever. Retailers are slashing orders and publishers are laying people off and new manuscripts are harder to sell than condos in Reno. Lots of panic in the biz right now.

panic.jpgThat said, there’s one aspect of the publishing industry that’s way more efficient than the Hot Stove season, where we’re forced to sit around waiting to see which free agents will deign to play for which team for how many millions of dollars.
It’s called an auction.
auction_gavel.jpgSeriously. Let’s say Mark Teixeira wrote a novel about – I don’t know – being a vampire, and every editor in New York was eager to acquire it for his or her company.
Mark’s agent, Scott Boras, would set a date for the auction. On that day, editors would submit bids for the book to Scott, who would sift through them, pick the highest bidder and the best marketing plan, and notify the winner. And that would be that. Tex and his vampire novel would have a home. No waiting around. No blogging about why it’s taking so long. Just a done deal.
Authors aren’t that different from ballplayers (not counting the lack of athletic ability and affordable health insurance). There are some, like John Grisham, who’ve stayed with the same publishing house for their entire career. In fact, Grisham is the Derek Jeter of authors.
There are others, like Jackie Collins, who finish up contracts, become free agents, and jump from publisher to publisher, making her the LaTroy Hawkins of novelists.
There are still others, such as the Red Sox-loving scribe Stephen King, who have special bonuses in their contracts (more money for each week a book is #1 on the NY Times bestseller list). Doesn’t that remind you of A-Rod and his “historic event bonuses?”
My agent’s name is Ellen Levine. She’s a big cheese at Trident Media Group, and she conducts auctions all the time. You could call her the Scott Boras of publishing, because she’s been known to make editors cry.
Ellen held an auction for me after I became a free agent. It was the most stressful day of my life. I sat by the phone saying out loud to no one, “What if nobody comes to my auction and we don’t get a single bid?” I thought about other careers I could pursue if we didn’t have any takers. Like maybe this.
Or this.
Or even this.
Luckily, I had a taker, so I didn’t need to become a dental hygienist, a bullfighter or a clown. If I had to compare myself to a Yankee, I’m probably the Robinson Cano of authors. I can make the stylish play from time to time and hit with power when the mood strikes. But I’m lazy. I fool around too much. I could very easily be shipped off to Kansas City for Zack Greinke.


  1. Jane Heller

    I hope you mean it, Julia, because I wasn’t kidding about the book business being in the doldrums. The one thing you’ll have to do when you read the book is pretend that you’re me and you love the Yankees. That way you won’t be mad when I go off on the Red Sox.

  2. Jane Heller

    Well, Elizabeth. If it’s any consolation I bash everybody in the book, including the Yankees. No, especially the Yankees!

  3. Jane Heller

    I love Jackie, Paul! She’s one of the nicest, most un-diva-like people around. I was just pointing out that she’s well traveled in publishing, like LaTroy is in baseball. The difference is she’s way prettier than LaTroy.

  4. jimmy27nyy

    Well, Jane …

    Robinson Cano did hit .342 in 2006; and, has the potential to hit for an even higher batting average in future seasons …So, it ain’t such a bad thing, Jane, when you compared yourself to Cano !!! … I think you will be in the “Top Ten” of the “Best Seller Lists”, before Cano wins the MVP Award !!! … Anyway, I think I may have discovered the reason why “responses” are appearing before the “actual comments”, on your blog, and, I think, also, others … It seems, the times on the comments are being listed “one hour” ahead of the actual time the comments are submitted … Also, on the “Recent Comments” section, the comments are not being listed, until one hour after the actual time they were submitted … The comments show-up on the blog, but, I think, because of the time difference, some responses [made within that one hour time difference] are listed before the actual comments !!! … Sounds like a good story for another “book”, Jane: “The Mystery of the Missing Comments” !!! … I already mentioned my observations to Mark, on the community blog; so, he will check into this issue, and hopefully, all will be solved soon … I did notice after I submitted my thoughts to Mark, the time on my comment was correct … So, maybe the problem is already taken care of !!! … We will see !!! … Jane, hopefully, you had a great weekend; and, will have a nice day, today … Jimmy [27NYY] … http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

  5. jimmy27nyy


    Yes !!! … My above comments were listed with the actual time that they were submitted … Also, my comments were listed on the “Recent Comments” section, at the same time … Hopefully, the comments and responses will also list in the proper order … Go Yankees !!! … Jimmy [27NYY]

  6. Jane Heller

    Leave it to you, Jimmy, to look on the bright side about Cano (and me). And I think you did solve “The Mystery of the Scrambled Comments.” Maybe it had to do with daylight savings time and the MLB Blogs Clock hadn’t been set back an hour. Thanks for getting to the bottom of this!

  7. hseely@twcny.rr.com


    I hope you didn’t use your best stuff for this upcoming book. Save it for your option year. That’s when you want to pile up the big numbers.

    Wait a minute. I just had a thought:

    Has Lindsay Lohan written her memoirs?

    If so, she’ll be the Sidney Ponson of writers.

  8. mlbmark

    Hey, Jane. I would love to see you take up bullfighting and write your answer to Hemingway novels about the business. I think you would dominate Hemingway as your prose is even better. I vote for bullfighting.

    BTW I was at Barnes & Noble across from Lincoln Center last night with girlfriend and her daughter, doing our part. Your book will be right up front there soon.


  9. Jane Heller

    I don’t have an option year, El Duque. It was a one-book deal for my tome about being a Yankee fan. Once it comes out I’m a free agent again. And the Yankees didn’t offer me arbitration today – the nerve of those people!

    I never noticed that LaTroy was a head hunter when he was with the Yankees. He just served up bombs, which is not what Jackie does. Her books sell like crazy. So yeah, she’s way more successful than he is.

    Mark, I’m glad somebody is actually buying a book at Barnes & Noble as opposed to just sipping a latte. You and your girlfriend are definitely doing your part. I’ve never read “1776,” but it got very good reviews as I recall.

  10. redstatebluestate

    LaTroy Hawkins! Hilarious! You had me at Tex’s vampire novel, which I assume would be titled, “Interview with my Agent”. Nice. Glad you have takers. I’d hate to see you demoralized to wearing the retro powder blue road unis in KC on special promotion days 😉

  11. Jane Heller

    I think those retro KC uniforms are kind of cool, Jeff. But if I’m Cano, I’m hoping I get to stay in pinstripes.

    I like the auction idea too, Neal. Think how much simpler our lives would be. Boras would tell interested teams, “December 1st is the auction for Teixeira and I need all bids by 4 pm.” After that we’d all know where he’s going. Instead, we have this long drawn out process…..

  12. thegoodofthegame

    I think the main reason MLB doesn’t do their free agency like a book auction is because it would make way too much sense. What else about Major League Baseball makes sense? Nothing, so they’re just following suit here.

    I wish you great luck with your book. I know I’ll be buying a copy. You can expect Yankee-hate mail also.. just kidding. Either way, I’ll buy 15 copies if I have to.

    We MLBloggers gotta stick together, right?


  13. Jane Heller

    You’ll buy 15 copies of my book, Scott? Can I get that in writing? (Actually I just got it in writing so now you’re locked in!) And yes, we MLBloggers have to stick together. It’s a great community. We have different allegiances, but we’re in this craziness together.

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